Book of Mormon
“A Sure Foundation”
Internal strife develops among the Nephites.
Thousands join the Church; some Church members are lifted up in pride.
Lamanites and Nephite dissenters defeat the Nephites.
Nephi and Lehi remember their father's counsel. Miracles attend their
A study of this lesson will to encourage us to build our testimonies on the
foundation of Jesus Christ.
Scripture references for study:
Note: Underlined scripture references have been hyperlinked
to the LDS Scriptures at LDS.org and will open in a new window.
Lesson 33 Handout (PDF
Helaman 1 - Sedition & Invasion
A succession crisis.
The great chief judge, Pahoran (judge during the most recent wars), passed
Three of his sons offered themselves as candidates for the position of
chief judge: Pahoran, Paanchi, and Pacumeni.
Pahoran was chosen as the successor to his father's seat.
Pacumeni gave up his claims and "did unite with the voice of the people"
Paanchi and his followers were seeking for power and unwilling to
unite themselves behind Pahoran and the voice of the people.
Paanchi "was about to flatter away those people to rise up
in rebellion against their brethren" (v7).
Paanchi was arrested and tried for seditious behavior and condemned to
Paanchi's followers were "angry" at the death of their leader and
their inability to rise to power.
WHAT DID THEY DO?
They dispatched an assassin, one Kishkumen, to the judgment seat of Pahoran
and had him murdered.
Kishkumen was pursued by the servants of Pahoran, but he escaped.
Kishkumen returned to his fellow conspirators and together they swore an
oath of silence.
"...they all entered into a covenant, yea, swearing
by their everlasting Maker, that they would tell no man that Kishkumen
had murdered Pahoran" (v11).
DOESN'T IT SEEM PECULIAR THAT SUCH A WICKED BUNCH WOULD SWEAR AN OATH BY
The word "assassin" comes to us from a religious sect in the medieval ages
who carried out assassinations for political and religious motives. History teaches us that this group was very much like the secret combinations
of the Book of Mormon.
"And Satan said unto Cain: Swear unto
me by thy throat, and if thou tell it thou shalt die; and swear thy brethren
by their heads, and by the living God, that they tell it not; for if they
tell it, they shall surely die; and this that thy father may not know it;
and this day I will deliver thy brother Abel into thine hands."
After the death of Pahoran, Pacumeni, the surviving brother, was chosen
to fill the judgment seat.
About this same time the king of the Lamanites, Tubaloth, "gathered
together an innumerable army of men" to go up against the Nephites
(v14). Possibly, Tubaloth was aware of the civil unrest amongst the
The Nephites were often their own worst enemy:
There was civil strife within the Nephite nation.
The most evil Lamanite leaders came from among the Nephites.
WHO WAS TUBALOTH?
Son of Ammoron, brother of Amalickiah, another dissenter from the Nephites.
As you recall, Amalickiah was one who made an attempt to become king of the Nephites
and then fled to the Lamanite nation. He continued his deceitful
ways and rose to power (see
The general of the Lamanite army was Coriantumr, another dissenter from
the Nephite nation.
WHY DOES THIS KEEP HAPPENING?
Joseph Smith: "The Messiah's kingdom on earth
is of the kind of government, that there has always been numerous apostates.... Strange as it may appear at first thought, yet it is no less strange than
true, that notwithstanding all the professed determination to live godly,
apostates after turning from the faith of Christ, unless they have speedily
repented, have sooner or later fallen into the snares of the wicked one,
and have been left destitute of the Spirit of God, to manifest their wickedness
in the eyes of multitudes. From the apostates the faithful have received
the severest persecutions.... When once that light which is in them
is taken from them, they become as much darkened as they were previously
enlightened, and then, no marvel, if all their power should be enlisted
against the truth, and they, Judas like, seek the destruction of those
who were their greatest benefactors." (TPJS, p66)
- WHAT WARNING IS THERE HERE FOR US?
The Nephite armies, under the leadership of Moronihah, fortified the perimeters
of the land.
Consequently, the Lamanites, once they had pierced the Nephite border defenses,
marched with little difficulty to the Nephite capital of Zarahemla.
The conquest of Zarahemla was complete and Pacumeni was killed.
Having conquered Zarahemla, Coriantumr then gathered his troops and marched
The Lamanite success sowed the seeds of its own defeat.
"But behold, this march of Coriantumr through
the center of the land gave Moronihah great advantage over them"
Moronihah and Lehi engaged the Lamanites in battle both from in front and
behind, being thus surrounded.
I am not much of a strategist, but I have learned from playing the game
of RISK, that if you allow yourself to become surrounded by an enemy of
any strength, he can wear you down.
Coriantumr was killed and the Lamanites suffered a resounding defeat. All of the Nephite lands came back under Nephite control.
Lessons to be learned from the Lamanite wars.
HOW MIGHT WE APPLY THE LESSON OF THIS BATTLE TO OUR OWN LIVES?
It is possible that a close associate or a member of the church could be
Joseph Smith had William Law (2nd counselor in the Church) William Marks
(President of the Nauvoo Stake) turn against him.
In our spiritual defenses, Satan will attempt to penetrate at the weakest
point. Once he has done that he can cause us great unhappiness and
possibly our downfall.
We must seek the counsel of the Lord in order to recognize our weaknesses and
to strengthen them.
Helaman 2 - Gadianton
Following the Lamanite invasion, the Nephite government began to reconstitute
Kishkumen and the Paanchi conspirators continued to be active in pursuit
The people selected Helaman as chief judge (son of Helaman, grandson of
Alma the younger).
"Kishkumen sought to destroy Helaman" (v5) .
The conspiracy continued to thirst for power. How better to make
inroads than by destroying the standing leadership and creating instability.
HELAMAN 2:4-5. Gadianton becomes leader of the
band of Kishkumen.
Kishkumen went to assassinate Helaman, but in the process was stabbed by
a servant of Helaman who had gained knowledge of Gadianton's band and their
goals by "disguise" having "been out at night" (v6).
Helaman had his own intelligence service.
This servant alerted Helaman of the activities of this conspiratorial group.
"And it came to pass that Helaman did send forth
to take this band of robbers and secret murderers, that they might be executed
according to the law" (v10).
When Gadianton realized that Kishkumen was not returning, he gathered his
band "and they took their flight out of the land, by a secret way, into
the wilderness" (v11).
Helaman's Secret Service was unable to apprehend Gadianton and his band.
Joseph Fielding McConkie and Robert L. Millet wrote: "This
editorial statement of Mormon foreshadows the numerous references and examples
of the 'secret plans and combinations' that follow. Mormon is instructing his
readers concerning this underlying and recurring theme in the sad story of the
demise of the Nephite nation that follows." (Doctrinal Commentary on
the Book of Mormon, 3: 338)
- As we know, Mormon was writing to us in our day. He seems to be
pausing and telling us to take notice, as the story continues, of Gadianton, his
associates, and their secret ways. As we come across the stories of the
secret combinations found in the Book of Mormon, we need to consider what Mormon
is telling us and how it applies to us, the Church, and our liberty in this day
Helaman 3 - A Season of Emigration
Helaman 3 tells the account of Nephites who left the land of Zarahemla and migrated
to the land northward.
Back in the main Nephite lands.
The record says they traveled a great distance to a region of "large bodies
of water and many rivers" (v4).
It has been suggested that possible sites for this migration might be Teotihuacan
(NE of Mexico City) or Veracruz (E of Mexico City on the Gulf of Mexico).
This area had previously been occupied by a large population who had met
its destruction (the Jaredites).
This land had been denuded of its timber.
In the 53rd year of the reign of the judges Helaman died and his oldest
son, Nephi, became the chief judge (great-grandson of Alma the Younger).
The record states that there was peace in the land and prosperity in
the church (v23-24).
Except for "the secret combinations which Gadianton
the robber had established in the more settled parts of the land, which
at that time were not known unto those who were at the head of government;
therefore they were not destroyed out of the land" (v23).
In speaking of the prosperity and growth in the church, Mormon wrote:
In discussing the battle between Moronihah and Coriantumr we talked about
strengthening our weak areas.
WHAT KEY DO THESE VERSES PROVIDE?
We need to lay hold upon the word of God (v29-30).
WHAT CAN WE LEARN FROM THE RESPONSE OF THE HUMBLE CHURCH MEMBERS
WHO WERE PERSECUTED BY PROUD MEMBERS?
Their diligence resulted in "firmer" faith, joy and consolation,
and the "sanctification of their hearts".
Elder Alexander B. Morrison: "Prayer, fasting,
pleading, importuning—all are involved. Striving each day that we live to mirror
the Master in our thoughts and actions is necessary. To follow Him we must learn
of Him. 'Search the scriptures,' He said, 'for they are they which testify of
me.' (John 5:39.) As we learn of Him, as we draw closer to Him, as we strive to
become like Him (see John 14:21), we grow in spiritual power....
"Spiritual preparation is not something once done and
forever finished. It must be seen as a process rather than an event—a lifelong
commitment demanded by our discipleship. The long process of trial and training
must itself be recognized as a test of our faith. Perseverance, patience, and
enduring to the end are required. Painful, distressing times of anguish and
adversity come to all. God has promised none of us an easy ride. But He has
promised us a greater gift, the capacity to overcome, and the strength to
endure. Only as we pass through the refiner's fire can we progress toward
perfection." (Feed My Sheep: Leadership Ideas for Latter-day
WHY WAS IT IMPORTANT FOR THE PERSECUTED MEMBERS TO NOT FIGHT BACK, HOLD
GRUDGES, OR LEAVE THE CHURCH?
HOW CAN WE PREPARE TO FOLLOW THIS EXAMPLE WHEN WE ARE CRITICIZED OR OFFENDED
BY OTHERS, EVEN ANOTHER CHURCH MEMBER?
Helaman 4 - Except The Lord Keep The City
Another civil rebellion.
Some time later another group of dissenters went up to the land of the
Lamanites, and along with the previous group, were able to persuade the
Lamanites to again go to war against the Nephites.
In the year 38 B.C. there was dissension within the church and contention
among the people, even to bloodshed.
The rebellious were slain and the remainder were driven out of the land.
The rebellious went to the Lamanites and tried to persuade them to go to
battle against the Nephites.
The record states that the Lamanites would "not hearken to the words of those dissenters"
Mormon comments on the reasons for the great losses of the Nephites.
The Lamanites succeeded in obtaining possession of Zarahemla and many other
The Nephites under Moronihah counterattacked, but succeeded in regaining
only half of their lands.
NOTE: Mormon, being a great military leader himself, would have understood
military preparation and strategy. He could have, in great detail,
explained the technical reasons for the loss of the Nephite lands. Listen to
what he said!
WHAT DO THESE VERSES TELL US ABOUT THE DEFENSE OF OUR OWN NATION?
- Hugh Nibley: "The worst offenders in those days
were 'those who professed to belong to the church of God. And it was because of
the pride of their hearts, because of their exceeding riches, yea, of their
oppression of the poor, withholding their substance from the hungry,' and so on
(Helaman 4:11-12), that 'in the space of not many years' (Helaman 4:26) the
Nephites were reduced to a sorry, materialistic people, hopelessly outnumbered
by their enemies but with no inclination whatsoever to call upon God. 'The voice
of the people . . . chose evil, . . . therefore they were ripening for
destruction, for the laws had become corrupted' (Helaman 5:2)." (The
Prophetic Book of Mormon, p553)
- Elder Sterling W. Sill: "In 1835 a French visitor,
by the name of Alexis de Tocqueville, made a detailed study of our national
operations. Later he wrote in his book: 'America is great because she is good.
And if America ever ceases to be good, she will cease to be great.' This is a
divine law that applies to all nations and to all individuals. But it applies
particularly to us, because our extraordinary power and our extraordinary
mission give us extraordinary responsibilities." (CR, Oct 1970)
Helaman 5 - Roots, Not Branches
In 30 B.C. Nephi yielded up the judgment seat to one Cezoram.
"For as their laws and their governments
were established by the voice of the people, and they who chose evil were
more numerous than they who chose good, therefore they were ripening for
destruction, for the laws had become corrupted. Yea, and this was not
all; they were a stiffnecked people, insomuch that they could not be governed
by the law nor justice, save it were to their destruction.
"And it came to pass that
Nephi had become weary because of their iniquity; and he yielded up the
judgment-seat, and took it upon him to preach the word of God all the remainder
of his days, and his brother Lehi also, all the remainder of his days."
The mission of Nephi and his brother Lehi.
Nephi, like Mormon, understood that the strength of a nation did not lie
in its military preparedness or ability to fight, but in the spirituality
and righteousness of the people.
They continued into the Lamanite lands and received a cooler reception.
They went through many of the Nephite settlements and eventually to the
territories occupied by the Lamanites.
They preached with such great power that they were able to regain some
of the Nephite dissenters (v17) and 8,000 of the Lamanites.
They were captured and thrown into prison.
Miraculous events occurred, and as a result of their mission "the more
part of the Lamanites were converted" (v50).
These Lamanites laid down their weapons of war and yielded up to the Nephites
the lands of their possessions.
What a way to win a war! The armies of the Nephites could not expel
the Lamanites, but the humble preaching of two servants of God moved the
armies of the Lamanites.
WHY WERE NEPHI AND LEHI SO SUCCESSFUL ON THEIR MISSION AMONG THE LAMANITES?
"...they remembered the words which their father Helaman"
spoke to them (v5).
Consider this counsel: "And now, my sons,
remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ,
the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil
shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea,
when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have
no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo,
because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure
foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall."
A key to protecting our personal lives from the enemy.
Gospel Doctrine Notebook
- Record your thoughts on the events discussed in this lesson. What specific
principles can you apply to your life? How?
Resources Used In This Lesson
Conference Reports (CR).
Doctrinal Commentary on the Book of Mormon by Joseph Fielding McConkie and
Robert L. Millet.
Feed My Sheep: Leadership Ideas for Latter-day Shepherds by Alexander B.
Studies In Scripture, Volume 8, edited by Kent P. Jackson (Daniel C. Peterson,
Their Own Worst Enemies).
Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith (TPJS).
The Prophetic Book of Mormon by Hugh Nibley.
Gospel Doctrine Class
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Changes last made on:
24 June 2012